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Texas governor to let restaurants, theaters, malls open with limited capacity on May 1

Here's a summary is what Gov. Greg Abbott has unveiled....

  • Texas governor says he will allow the state stay-home order to expire on April 30.
  • Governor says retail, restaurants, theaters, museums, libraries, churches can open at 25% occupancy on May 1.
  • Outdoor sports such as golf and tennis are allowed, as long as four participants or less.
  • Governor says his order will supersede local orders.
  • Any county with five confirmed cases or less, which he estimates is roughly half the counties in the state, may open the above businesses at 50% occupancy.
  • Barbershops, hair salons, bars and gyms are not safe to reopen at this time. Governor says he hopes to be able to do so later in May if conditions allow.
  • He expects to do a phase two of re-opening on May 18, allowing those businesses opened at 25% to go to 50% occupancy.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said he will let the state’s stay-at-home order expire at the end of the month, and allow businesses to begin opening in phases in May.

First to open up this Friday: Retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls. But they will only be allowed to operate at 25% capacity. Museums and libraries will also be allowed to open at 25% capacity, but hands-on exhibits must remain closed.

Abbott's order supersedes local orders saying those businesses must remain closed. But the reopenings are optional. Businesses can stay closed if they wish, Abbott said.

Abbott also said his new order means cities like El Paso, Houston and Austin, which have required people wear to masks when in public, cannot punish any violators with penalties. However, Abbott urged people to continue wearing masks.

At the same time, Abbott said he is holding off on re-opening certain businesses for the time being, including barbershops, hair salons, bars and gyms. He said he hopes those businesses can open "on or no later than mid-May."

"Just as we united as one state to slow Covid-19, we must also come together to begin rebuilding the lives and the livelihoods of our fellow Texans,” he said.

The previous stay-at-home order "has done its job to slow the growth of Covid-19," Abbott said.

"Now it’s time to set a new course, a course that responsibly opens up business in Texas," Abbott said.

Abbott's news conference Monday marked his second announcement about restarting the Texas economy amid the pandemic. He announced initial steps 10 days ago that included the formation of a task force, loosening of restrictions on medial surgeries, reopening of state parks and allowance of "retail-to-go." That option, which lets stores make deliveries to customers' cars or homes, went into effect late last week.

Since Abbott's April 17 announcement, Abbott has had to contend with a small but increasingly vocal faction of his party that wants him to act more aggressively to get the state economy going again. Abbott has also had to be mindful of President Donald Trump, who has agitated for an economic restoration but last week dinged another red-state governor, Georgia's Brian Kemp, for moving too quickly.

Democrats have continued to argue the state is woefully unprepared to reopen without a long-promised ramp-up in testing, which has not happened yet.

Texas voters actually overwhelmingly approve of the widespread business closures and statewide stay-at-home order even though the economy is taking a catastrophic hit, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Abbott's announcement Monday came as the number of coronavirus cases in Texas reached at least 25,297, including 663 deaths, according to the latest figures from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Over 80% of Texas' 254 counties — 205 — are reporting cases.

The number of infections is likely higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

The DSHS numbers show there have been 290,517 tests done in Texas. More than 11,100 people have been deemed recovered.

A key part of Abbott’s plan is a promise of boosting testing and tracking outbreaks, including building a team of 4,000 contact tracers by May 11. The new rules could be expanded to more businesses if the next two weeks do not show sharp increases in the number of people hospitalized or dying from Covid-19.

Experts widely agree that to control the epidemic in the absence of strict social distancing measures, states and localities will need to build the capacity for additional testing and contact tracing — something Texas medical and public health officials have told CNN the state isn’t doing at a large enough scale to reopen.

That process of identifying new cases of Covid-19 and then tracking down and quarantining anyone who could have been infected by those newly identified cases would be crucial to returning to normal life.

Abbott faces a unique challenge in reopening Texas, the world’s 10th largest economy.

While previewing Texas’ reopening strategy earlier this month, Abbott had said a group of medical and economic experts would guide him through the series of incremental steps aimed at reopening the state’s economy.

Article Topic Follows: Biz/Tech


Associated Press

Texas Tribune


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